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Circling The Wagons

Well this wasn’t a surprise. The beat reporters haven’t wasted any time in taking comments from certain UCLA fans in message boards and "blogs" to create the sense re. "UCLA fans’" unhappiness with Coach Howland’s offense.Brian Dohn reports breathlessly:

E-mails were sent and blogs and message boards exploded as angry fans lashed out at UCLA coach Ben Howland about the Bruins' offense in the final 13 minutes of Saturday's overtime loss to Arizona State.

Everywhere senior point guard Darren Collison went the rest of the day, including to the movies, people came up to him and asked about the loss.

"Oh, my gosh," Collison said. "That's how it is for UCLA. You can't lose games, period. I get home and it's all silent. My parents are taking it harder than I'm taking it."

Collison acknowledged "it ruined my whole day," but added that is the price paid for playing at UCLA.

David Wharton from the LA Times couldn’t resist pouring on the Howland bashing party:

Even worse, the defeat revived old doubts about Coach Ben Howland and his program.

Though Howland has led UCLA to three consecutive Final Four appearances, not everyone appreciates his cautious, defense-first approach. Critics wonder if the 13th-ranked Bruins can win a championship without more attention to scoring.

Which raises an essential question: Was the Arizona State loss a temporary glitch or evidence of a serious flaw?

"It's funny that every time we lose, we've got to hear this," Collison said, adding: "I don't think that's fair."

Again, I wonder who exactly these so called fans are, which these reporters keep referring to without providing any specific evidence. Sure there were many of us who were bummed out from last Saturday’s heart breaking loss, we are freaking over it and moving on. Sure there are wahoos on message boards and commenters in Dohn’s blog (which is littered with trolls from opposing schools in guise of UCLA fans) lashing out at Howland’s offense (without taking into account it’s over all body of work. Yet to use their out of context comments and caricature that as behavior of entire UCLA fan base is simply ridiculous on the part of these beat writers.

Moreover, I notice there were few of us here on BN didn’t mind so much that a writer dissed this team with a core of seniors who have won 3 straight conference championships and been to three Final-4s, as a "bubble one" even though we are not even close to being out of the hunt for its fourth straight conference championship. Well, we can all analyze number like robots till the cows come home, but the fact of the matter is this team is still a lock to make the tournament and to call this guys as a "bubble team" is a sign of disrespect and insult given what Howland and his players have accomplished over the years.

The only thing I hope right now is all this negativity from the concern trolls in the media and so called fans, will fire up our warriors even more and get them locked into our next opponent. It appears that Howland and the administrators are making sure to streamline their long trip to Pullman:

UCLA will fly charter today to Pullman, Wash. It should cut the usual commercial travel time of 11 hours to four. Howland said backup center J'mison Morgan (groin) had a good practice Monday and is ready to play.

Moreover, here is how the team responded following Saturday's game:

Preparing for Washington State and Washington this week, the team watched videotape of the Arizona State game for about two hours, dissecting mistakes. There was talk of playing smarter angles against the zone.

Then came a workout that players described as short but intense.

"Any time we lose, we try to respond the next day in practice," senior Josh Shipp said. "That's how we bounce back."

Freshman guard Jerime Anderson suffered back spasms and sat out the end of practice. His status for the Washington State game Thursday night was undetermined.

The rest of the team was in good shape. Except for bruised egos.

"We can't let these doubters or anybody talk about UCLA," Collison said. "We've got to continue to fight back."

Hopefully the entire team is ready to play and respond on Thursday night. Meanwhile, we are going to circle the wagon.